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Vanek, Koivu help Wild handle Canucks

by Dan Myers

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- After playing close games during a three-game road trip, the Minnesota Wild returned home and scored four times in the second period of a 6-2 win against the Vancouver Canucks at Xcel Energy Center on Tuesday.

"We got off to a good start, which is something we wanted to do to start this homestand off on the right way," Wild forward Zach Parise said. "It was fun. It felt like we had the puck a lot, a lot of shots, a lot of good scoring chances. The power play moved it around well."

Thomas Vanek and Mikko Koivu each had a goal and three assists for Minnesota. Koivu made it 4-1 at 8:12 of the second period with his 150th NHL goal.

Parise had a goal, two assists and a Wild-high eight shots on goal. His assist on Ryan Suter's power-play goal at 12:36 of the second was his 300th in the NHL.

Wild goaltender Darcy Kuemper, in his fourth consecutive start in place of injured Devan Dubnyk, made 29 saves for his third win.

"The talk in San Jose [on Saturday] was, I thought we were going to break out that night," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "I knew that if we kept playing the same way, offensively, things would start clicking a little more."

The Wild scored 10 goals in its previous six games but managed to go 4-0-2 because of solid goaltending and improved play by their defensemen.

In a 2-0 win against the San Jose Sharks on Saturday, Yeo shuffled the lines during the third period. Their forward chemistry showed signs of life, so he stuck with those groups Tuesday.

"Our play without the puck has been better," Yeo said. "Because of that, we've had the puck a lot more. You could see the execution, getting our [defensemen] involved, a little more zone time. We've had the puck more and obviously that creates more opportunities to score goals and creates more counterattack opportunities.

"We knew if we could stick with it and maybe get a little bit hungrier around the net that we could break loose."

Minnesota (16-7-6) has at least one point in eight consecutive games (5-0-3) since a 3-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Nov. 27. The Wild play five of their next six games here, where they are 11-3-1 this season.

Vancouver (11-13-8) started its six-game road trip 0-2-0 with four games remaining against Eastern Conference opponents. The Canucks have lost five straight games on the road since a 3-2 win here on Nov. 25.

"There's quite a bit that bothered me," Canucks coach Willie Desjardins said. "I don't think our compete level was high enough. We have a few guys that are playing hard. I thought Miller had an outstanding game. If it wasn't for him, it would have been bad."

Miller allowed six goals on 36 shots before he was replaced by Jacob Markstrom to start the third period. Miller did stop a number of odd-man opportunities and Grade A chances.

"They made some plays around us tonight," Miller said. "It's my job to be a problem-solver and I didn't solve enough of them."

Desjardins said, "He made so many great saves. Our team has to stand up for themselves; we can't rely on four or five guys to carry us. Other guys have to start carrying us."

Vanek and Jason Zucker scored first-period goals to give the Wild a 2-0 lead. Vanek's was the first of three power-play goals; he capped a tic-tac-toe passing play from Jason Pominville along the half-wall to Parise in the slot, who dropped it to Vanek in front of Miller.

"Tonight was just one of those nights where we clicked and the puck went in the net," Vanek said. "It comes with confidence. The last five or six games, we've been playing good hockey. We weren't scoring as many goals, but I thought we created a lot more. Tonight, we got rewarded."

Parise had three shots at the net early in the second, finally scoring on the third try from one knee. On a power play, Parise gained control of the puck near the right post but saw Miller shut down each of his first two tries. His third somehow got through from a bad angle for his 10th at 5:25.

Jannik Hansen scored off a turnover to get the Canucks within 3-1 at 6:45, but Koivu, Suter and Scandella scored less than eight minutes apart to make it 6-1.

Daniel Sedin scored for Vancouver at 6:16 of the third; Henrik Sedin had two assists.

Koivu has played 710 NHL games; Parise has played 712.

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